On the historic day of August 6, when the entire nation was rejoicing the complete integration of Jammu & Kashmir in the Union of Bharat, the news of BJP’s stalwart leader Sushma Swaraj being taken to the AIIMS after a massive cardiac arrest put many in shock and disbelief. Since then, many have expressed their sentiments as a tribute to the former External Affairs Minister. Her leadership, oratory, usage of the Twitter-like platform, her journey from the youngest cabinet minister of Haryana to Union Cabinet Minister, her personal life, etc. were discussed naturally. In a few interactions with her, I found her to be a Bharatiya Womanhood personified.
While delivering his famous lecture on WOMEN OF INDIA, at the Shakespeare Club House, in Pasadena, California, on January 18, 1900, Swami Vivekananda proudly declared, “In the West, the woman is wife. The idea of womanhood is concentrated there — as the wife. To the ordinary man in India, the whole force of womanhood is concentrated in motherhood”. Many modern feminists would not appreciate this description, but I am sure, Sushmaji, fondly known as Didi, the elder sister for many, would not mind this.
The idea of ‘motherhood’ explained by Swamiji and endorsed by many in Bharatiya tradition was not a symbol of weakness or subjugation but that of strength and fulfilment. Being tough and still compassionate at the same time is inherent in this idea. Whenever I met or saw her speaking, I could connect to this idea.
A mother shapes the children with sanskars, if necessary, even after being tough and disciplinary. She tends to instil character among children, even after being tough to herself. When Sushmaji roared the words in Parliament in 1996, “Yes Mr Speaker, we are communal, because we advocate the singing of Vande Matram; yes, we are communal, because we fight for the respect of the national flag; we are communal, because we want to abolish the 370; we are communal, because we want to put an end to discrimination based on caste and creed in this country; yes we are communal, because we want to get the Uniform Civil Code implemented in this country”, it was her ‘Rudravatar’ as they call.
Similarly, while dealing with the issues related to terrorism and terror financing, in her eloquent Hindi sharply took down of Pakistan in the following words: “Time and again, Pakistan accuses India of human rights violations. Who can be a greater transgressor of human rights than a terrorist? Pakistan glorifies killers; it refuses to see the blood of innocents”.
On the contrary, when it came to dealing with the Bharatvanshis abroad, she virtually turned Twitter into a helpline for the distressed. Sushma Swaraj played a great role in ‘Operation Rahat’ that was launched by Indian armed forces to evacuate more than 4,000 Indian citizens and other foreign nationals from Yemen during the 2015 military intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The 11-day evacuation by sea started on April 1, 2015, from Aden port. Sushma Swaraj's relentless diplomacy with Saudi establishment made the evacuation possible amidst heavy bombing of Yemenese locations.
A poor labourer from Tuticorin called Tamilselvi was sold as a sex slave in a Middle Eastern country. A concerned person brought the issue to the notice of her Ministry. Within two weeks, Tamilselvi was saved and brought back. Another Indian national, Hamid Ansari, had strayed into Pak territory from Afghanistan. He was held captive for six years. Sushma Swaraj intervened and took up the case personally. After much deliberation with the Pak establishment, Hamid was released. Upon his return to India, he said he owed his life to her and without her intervention, he would have rotted in a prison cell in Pakistan.
Her story of compassion, giving hug and kiss to HIV+ children of Kollam, rejected by the so-called progressives, clearly shows her motherly instincts. ‘Even if you are stuck on the Mars, Indian Embassy there will help you’, was her assurance on Twitter, who else can give this assurance but a mother to her children. The best part was while doing so, she did not allow the impulsive platform like Twitter to be used for repulsive interactions. Even if someone tried to provoke or made some personal comments, she either neglected or used her pet weapon of humour. She was a great host and care, and motherly treatment by her to every guest in a function organised by her was her peculiar trait; another motherly one that one needs to emulate on the social media platforms. Bringing woman across party lines on one platform for the common cause was her innate ability, and one could see that when he dealt with the issues such as woman’s reservation bill or Nirbhaya rape case.
Even without showing the slightest shade of social conservatism in her approach, Sushmaji, a typical saree wearing, relatively short with big Bindi and strong Sindoor, proudly carried her Bharatiya identity at global stage. In fact, in national politics, she always remained a champion of breaking the glass ceiling in various walks of life. Her sudden journey towards the heavenly abode left many in tears, as not just in appearance, but even in qualities, she was Bharatiya womanhood personified. Her demise has created a huge void and also left a great legacy to follow.